An Under-Reported Aspect of College Football-- Injuries

I just finished up doing an interview with NC State Blogger, Section Six.  We should have that within the next day or so.  For now, though, let's focus on something else.

I've always been amazed at the disparity between the attention given to injuries in the NFL, and the almost total lack of coverage that CFB injuries receive.  In this report, I take a look at the Noles health, and compare it to past years.

Back on July 16th, I wrote:

We have missed an incredible 86 Starts due to injury over the past 2 years! That is the 2nd most in the nation. Only Stanford (120!) had more. Utah State (The aggies) are the only other team to accrue 70 starts missed due to injury in the L2Y. In comparison, Illinois missed only 5 starts due to injury over the past 2 years. In 2006 and 2007, 15 teams had a season in which their starters missed less than 6 total games due to injury. Put another way, FSU's injury luck over the past 2 years has been 1700% worse than that of Illinois.

According to Phil Steele of Philsteele.com, teams that suffered more than 36 starts in any given year due to injury improved their record 81% of the time! That stat increases if you take out teams who suffered similar or worse injury numbers in the subsequent year (what happened to FSU last year).

I think this startling number and the resulting poor play of our beloved Noles over the past several years reflects the true importance of substituting fresh players (NOT on the OLINE, they should play the whole game for continuity purposes.) FSU consistently beat opponents based on depth. In the Glory Days, especially the late '90's, we would substitute fresh defensive players at a rabid pace. FSU was a trendsetter with this approach and was successful with their substitution''s because their bench player at 90% was better than their starter at 80%. Having little or no drop-off between starter and backup is essential when trying to use frequent defensive substitutions. As a team loses players to injury, the talent level on their bench shrinks. Without talented backups at the ready to spell the starters, the defense suffers from increased fatigue and increased incidence of injury often occurs from extreme fatigue.

The poor play also highlights the importance of units working together. When we say that this team looked lost at times, it is because they were. When we said that they lacked trust in each other, they did, because they hadn't played with the guy next to them for very long (if ever). I'll assume that most of you degenerates work. If you are constantly having to train new employees and team members, the potential of your group is stunted.

I personally believe that both bad luck and bad conditioning are to blame for this trend. We addressed the issue of conditioning coaching with the new hires and I have to believe that "luck" will improve as well. Some of the guys on the team in this decade have been visibly morbidly obese.

The formula for improving is simple: Average injury luck (say, 18 missed starts or 3 every 2 games) + improved work ethic and attitude of the team (done) + a much easier schedule compared to 2007 + another year under Jimbo's system= 10+ win season (including the bowl game.)

08/12/08 Update: UGA lost stud LT Trendon Studivant to a knee injury (ACL, MCL, & PCL). This is the type of injury FSU has endured in the past. People don't pay attention to line injuries, but the left tackle is pretty much the second most important player on the team. Georgia is done this year. I think they might finish 3rd in the east.

Now, ignore my Georgia prognostication for a moment.

Teams feed their fans lines about two things:  youth and injuries.  Our coaches  railed about how young our team was over the last 2 years.  As we've discussed before, that simply wasn't true, our team was not young. 

They've also thrown out the injury excuse.  That one is not a bunch of B.S.  As I point out above, the Noles have been the 2nd most injured/ suspended team in the Nation over the past two years.  This stuff goes unreported, however, as the National media is largely unfamiliar with college kids outside of star skill position players.  These injuries do matter, though, just as they do in the NFL.  It's just not good TV or Copy to talk about some school losing a left tackle, but ask Georgia how badly they missed LT Trinton Sturdivant and DT Jeff Owens when they were physically dominated by 'Bama.

So, what about this year?  How are the Noles doing on the injury and suspension front?  Let's take a look...

We measure the impact in terms of missed starts.

This year, the Noles have missed 15 starts to suspension (approximately).

They've missed two starts due to injury. 

The Noles have not lost a starter for the year due to injury.  In contrast, NC State has lost 3 or 4 (depending on what projected starting lineup you use).  Virginia Tech has lost 5.

That suspension number is huge, but consider that only 4 of the 15 occurred against D1 competition.

So, we've missed only 6 total starts against D1 competition due to injury or suspension.  That is incredible.  It's also a bit lucky.  In July, I said I'd be very happy if we could average 3 injury misses per every two games.  So far in 3 D1 games, we've missed only 2.

The suspensions are also sort of unique, because we had all offseason to prepare to play without the missing players. 

In fact, the Noles have behaved wonderfully, going 165 days without an arrest.  Don't laugh, that's a very good number for a major college program.  How many fraternities go almost half a year without an arrest?  How many businesses employing a similar number of young men go even half that long without an incident?

We've stayed clean because of increased vigilance from the coaching staff, a proactive purging of the bad apples over the last 18 months, and better leadership from the players--both young and old.  Competition helps too; players know that one misstep could cost them a spot on the field.  That's what having talented depth can do for you.

Can we keep up this luck? 

I'm not sure.  Things happen on the discipline front, but for the most part, we have better kids in the program now. 

The current injury rate can be attributed to players being in better shape, but it would be foolish not to realize that we've been incredibly lucky.  Almost every team in the Nation has lost a starter to injury for the season.  Florida State has not.  In fact, FSU is projected to have it's entire starting lineup in place for the NC State game.  if you believe in luck, then maybe we're just seeing luck come around to us after having some of the worst possible over the past 2 years.

When you look to see why FSU is on the verge of being 5-1, look at coaching staff, recruiting, playing 2 D1AA teams, just don't forget that you've been looking at the same players on the field every week.  It's not often you see that.  Let's hope we continue to be healthy.  Continuity and familiarity can only help success.

Get Ready for the Raleigh on Thursday Night!

We will be doing a huge LiveBlog!  Be sure to get here and participate!

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